The Novel Coronavirus spread happens from human-to-human through a number of mediums. This virus is proving to be deadly for human civilization because of its sheer ability to survive on surfaces around us for a time period that is long enough-/*- for multiple people to come in contact with it. How long it stays viable on different surfaces depends on the surface and how the virus interacts with it.
Coronavirus – Fomites & Their Role in Spreading COVID-19
The simple and regular act of touching a surface has become a high-risk situation right now. We are surrounded by surfaces that could be housing the deadly Coronavirus like door handles, mail packages, milk packets & bottles, elevator buttons, ATM screens, cellphones, etc. These everyday objects & surfaces around us that the virus attaches itself to, are known as fomites, which when contaminated, can result in Coronavirus spread and expose you to COVID-19.
Coronavirus – Viability on Different Surfaces
Researchers have been conducting a number of tests to determine the viability of Coronavirus under different conditions and on different surfaces.
Coronavirus was found to be the most stable on stainless steel and plastic surfaces, lasting for as long as 72 hours on them. It was also found that the virus stays viable on copper and cardboard surfaces for upto 4 hours and 2 hours respectively. These series of tests helped establish that fomite transmission of Coronavirus is possible after all.
However, according to researchers, a person needs to get exposed to a certain amount of virus to get infected. This means the lesser the virus on a certain surface, lower the chance of someone touching it and getting infected. Moreover, the infection can only transfer when a person touches their eyes, nose or mouth with hands that have the virus on them, allowing the virus to enter the person’s body through the mucus membranes.
Coronavirus – Ways to Protect Yourself From Fomite Transmission
Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and keep yourself from getting infected. Also, healthcare professionals recommend cleaning & disinfecting your surrounding surfaces regularly, to kill the virus that may be sitting on top of them.
Here are some simple steps you can take in your day-to-day tasks to avoid fomite transmission of Coronavirus –
- Regular cleaning & disinfecting of door handles, elevator buttons, ATM screens, mobile devices, etc. The cleaning frequency required is directly proportional to the number of people these surfaces get exposed to on a daily basis.
- Milk packets and bottles arriving at your doorstep every morning must be washed with detergent & water before it touches anything else inside your house.
- Delivery and mail packages should be left outside the house if possible, only allowing the contents inside.
- When you go outside in public spaces, after coming back home, you must take a shower and change into fresh clothes, tossing the old ones to get washed. This ensures that no infectious virus that may have gotten attached to your skin or clothes gets to travel around the insides of your house and contaminate it.
Watch this video by Dr. Shikha Panwar, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad talking about transmission of Coronavirus through fomites and how to protect yourselves from them.
It is noteworthy that the coronavirus begins to degrade on the surfaces, as hours go by. This means that the likelihood of catching an infection through the virus sitting on a particular surface decreases with time. The window of getting infected is the highest in the first 10 minutes, first hour, or first two hours, depending on the surface.
Coronavirus – Fomites vs Humans -The Main Culprit
Despite everything, it is essential to understand that fomites are not the primary drivers of the Coronavirus Pandemic. A direct person-to-person transmission is the main culprit of the COVID-19 outbreak and the only way to prevent Coronavirus spreading is practicing social distancing, self-quarantine, and good hygiene, diligently.
Coronavirus takes up to 14 days to flare up into symptoms in an infected person making it much harder to detect, track and stop. This is why it is vital that we try to win this battle with COVID-19 in India by doing everything that needs to be done by us as citizens, before things g/o out of control.
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